November 12, 2002
|Jen Costanza, Shipboard Education Coordinator||Hepsi Zsoldos, Shipboard Education Coordinator|
Dr. Craig Cary , Chief Scientist
Final Journal Entry
At 07:15 this morning, we caught our first sight of land. It will take us another five hours to reach the Caldera, our port of disembarkation. There was a sadness in the air last night as I searched for several of the science party. It always seems that on the last night, people go to places they have found to get away from the group to be alone — a place to think and look at the stars with the movement of the ship for one final time. It is at times like this that I really feel the romance of adventure and discovery — the obvious narcotic that has drawn both men and women in to science and especially oceanography. I asked several of the first-timers if they would do it again and was told in a heartbeat, most definitely. I think most of us "old-timers" would reply the same.
While there is some sorrow, there is great anticipation of feeling solid ground beneath our feet. Twenty-three days at sea is really not that long but long enough to forget what it is like to not have to lean against the shower wall to stand up or the wave with the ship's roll every time you do anything thing that requires movement. For many, shore is a blessing and a comfort. For me however, it is different. After so much preparation (over a year) and anticipation for what might be accomplished during the voyage, the adventure draws to a close, but I am really not quite ready. This is not an uncommon feeling to me; in fact one I feel each time I go to sea. It is just that I forgot and find myself unprepared (as usual) to deal with the disappointment of it all ending.
Did we get what we came for? I would have to say a resounding YES! Even with the small bumps in the beginning that we overcame and the loss of some important equipment, we are leaving with a sense of accomplishment. There is no doubt in my mind that everyone in the science party is leaving with a feeling of success, having learned so much more about this unique habitat we study. This has been my 24th Alvin cruise, and over the years, I have grown to not only appreciate the capabilities of those that really make what we do happen but to depend on them.
The Atlantis and her crew and the Alvin Group are a unique group of individuals that strive to make the often impossible, actually happen. It is so easy for us ashore to visualize doing something on the ship that will enable us to reach some objective, but it is these individuals that make it happen.
We came on board just about 23 days ago with dreams of discovery and success and now will walk ashore with coolers filled with that promise — samples from the deep that may just answer those questions that brought us out here, but maybe not. What if, in this brief moment we were given, we were unable to accomplish the task, is that failure? Not in my mind because no matter what happens, we learned more about the system we work in, more about the process of science, and most importantly more about ourselves. These together are invaluable and will certainly provide a new incentive to accomplish the task next time. The process of asking questions and doing science is, I believe, based largely on intuition. You gain this intuition by observation and experience. There are no textbooks, no lectures, no journals that can replace being there and experiencing it for yourself. There is no replacing exploration — it is deep-rooted in our heritage. It is, in many ways, what it is to be human.
There has been some recent talk questioning necessity for human presence in deep-sea exploration. Some would have you believe that our eyes can be replaced by cameras, our minds by computers, and our experience by robots. While I believe that Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) have a place in deep-sea exploration, they can never replace the need for us to visit the environment we study. ROVs may provide a longer time of visitation, but they will never fuel the imagination and build that essential intuition as actually being there. For each of you reading this last journal, I personally would like to know how you feel in regard to issue. On the Web site we have posed this question and asked for all of you readers to respond. The information gathered from this short poll will be presented at an upcoming meeting where the future of deep-sea exploration will be discussed. Please take the time to vote — we need your input. Would this expedition have been as exciting if instead of Alvin we had used a robot to do the work?
It is customary when leaving the ship that the Chief Scientist writes a letter thanking the Crew and Alvin Group for all of their efforts to make the cruise a success. This letter is posted in the Galley area for all to read. While is often hard to acknowledge each individual's efforts, this general letter tries to bring the point up front that we (the science) know that our success is the direct result of everyone's efforts.
I would like to thank each of you out there who has dialed into our expedition though the Web. I hope that this small experience has been informative, enlightening, and at times amusing. We hope that we have given you a glimpse into our world as scientists and maybe opened a new door to discover science for yourselves. We all hope to see you next year for Extreme 2003 (Nov 2003).
Dr. Craig Cary, Chief Scientist, Extreme 2002
Jen Costanza, Shipboard Education Coordinator
Final Journal Entry
Well, it's our last day. I started to get a little sad about leaving everyone last night, but I know that I'll stay in touch with those whom I've become friends. I haven't been homesick at all since I got here, and I'm still not, but I am ready to go home.
Most of us are taking the opportunity to travel around Costa Rica for a couple of days before returning home to the daily grind of work. I'm excited about seeing a new place and meeting new people, but I know that when I get off of Atlantis, I'll just want to get on a plane and go home. Too bad the cruise didn't leave out of Costa Rica, and I could have done the touristy thing first. It has been such a great cruise, though.
This was an amazing opportunity for me. I enjoyed getting to know the crew and the other scientists. I learned immense amounts of information about hydrothermal vents and the Pompeii worm, an area of science not even remotely near what I study. It was thrilling to be able to communicate with all of the classrooms participating in Extreme 2002. I would have loved to have been able to answer more questions or have more phone calls. The phone calls were a lot of fun for me. I love interacting with school groups and wish I could do it more often. Anyway, I won't babble on about the trip and how great it was (but it was!) and how well all of the science went (people seem to have the potential to find all kinds of fun stuff when they get back to their labs) and how sad it is to be leaving (we're all sad). Okay, it's been fun!
Thanks for checking in and participating in Extreme 2002: Mission to the Abyss. This is Jen Costanza, Shipboard Education Coordinator of Extreme 2002: Mission to the Abyss on board R/V Atlantis signing off.
Jen Costanza, Shipboard Educational Coordinator, Extreme 2002
Hepsi Zsoldos, Shipboard Education Coordinator
Final Journal Entry
Packing up, exchanging addresses, and making plans for next year have been the order of yesterday and today. Much of the 11th was devoted to packing up the labs, labeling packages, and making arrangements for samples to go home. Most of the equipment is staying on the ship until it gets to Florida in December, but all the samples have to come home with us. Some of them have to stay on dry ice to make sure they stay frozen, so that has to be obtained from the ship's agent when we pull into Caldera.
The science party is VERY happy with the samples collected and with the results of their studies. Barb Campbell and Hugh Morgan have gotten good sub-cultures for the first time. Stefan Sievert and Craig Taylor are pleased with the results from Harold. The samples are put away until they get back to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution where they'll be analyzed. The RNA group has plenty of frozen samples of eggs and sperm from Alvinella pompejana. They have plenty to use for RNA extraction. Dr. Cary held a meeting with the Alvin pilots to see how worms could be more easily collected next year. NEXT YEAR! They don't waste any time thinking about how to improve their collections. That's not surprising though; there's a limited amount of time to dive and collect samples, so they want to maximize their efforts.
We're coming up fast in Costa Rica; it can clearly be seen on the radar, but I haven't seen land yet. Our ETA in Caldera is 1400 local time. The ship's agent, Vasile Tudoran, will meet the boat and help the customs agents clear us to disembark.
I have mixed feelings about the end of this cruise. I'm glad to be getting off the boat and back onto land where I can walk for miles. I'm looking forward to finding a place where I can just sit and be myself with no engine noise and not see a soul for hours. I can't wait to eat pizza, play with my dogs, and see my students at Talley Middle School. I've spoken with them several times by satellite phone, and they've done some lessons via satellite with me, but it's not the same as really being there with them.
I'm looking forward to some crisp autumn air with the Canada geese flying over my home and landing in the fields around it. I can't wait to go pick apples and make some apple pie. Most importantly, I can't wait to see my family. My mom and sister have been great at keeping in touch with me out here by e-mail, but I'm looking forward to cooking for myself and having a BIG Thanksgiving meal together. I've only been out here for three-and-a-half weeks. I'm starting to see how hard it is for the crew to be away from friends and family for four months. They make this their home and family instead.
The Atlantis has been my home now for a little over three weeks. I know her well and will miss going out on deck and watching the stars in a crystal-clear sky. It's the kind of sky we get back home on very cold nights, but it's balmy and the air is sweet here. I'll miss the endless variety of the sky here. I'll miss the excitement and the wonder of discovery when new samples are brought on board and we get to start working with them. I'm never going to forget the feeling of watching a sub deployment and recovery, the thrill of seeing shooting stars by the handful, the feeling of being bone-tired from working so many hours, and the deep feeling of satisfaction that has come with a job well done.
There are three things I will never, ever forget. The first is my first glimpse of the ocean floor at 2,500 meters. I know I've put this in my journal before, but it's branded on my brain; nothing but darkness for 90 minutes, a warning from Blee Williams that we'd be hitting the bottom very shortly and to watch out my viewport, and that very first moment when he threw on the lights and we flew over pillow lava after pillow lava. I know I stopped breathing. I don't ever want to forget that feeling of wonder and discovery.
The second is the view from the pilot's viewport at Bio-9. I could have sat there for hours watching the vent flow and the teeming life living on it. These life forms have probably been here longer than just about anything else it may be the place where life began on this planet. What if vent systems are the origin of life? What can these creatures tell us about our lives and ourselves? They have a story to tell, too. That story is slowly, painstakingly being pieced together by the scientists working these sites.
I got a glimpse of that story and brought back a small chapter of samples with me for others to decipher. Nothing can compare to seeing these things in person. That first moment I saw how lovely Bio-9 was and how vibrant the community of life there is, I knew why ocean research MUST continue. We are creatures of water; it's our most precious resource, yet is so overlooked it frightens me. Our lives, all over the world, are deeply impacted by the state of our oceans. We owe our weather and our climate to the modifying effects of the resource that covers over 70% of the planet. I believe it to be imperative that we gain more and more understanding of ocean processes and how they affect our lives. It's not optional.
The third thing I take away with me is a sense of team and camaraderie. I've said it before, but I have to say it again; the crew on this boat is wonderful. It takes every single person on this ship to launch Alvin every day. The crew takes it personally if a launch is delayed or scrubbed due to technical difficulties. They have worked smoothly, efficiently, and professionally. I'd like to bring that spirit back home with me. Things on shore get chaotic and difficult, and we sometimes forget that there are people around us that could help us. Teamwork is the key to success when trying to overcome obstacles and achieve something you once thought beyond your capabilities.
You, participants from all over the world in Extreme 2002, have been part of this team. You were here with us, and I thought of you every time I took a photo, wrote captions, or composed a journal. I hope that you have felt some sense of team spirit as you've been with us. And I hope that something we've said or done, or something you've read, will inspire you to follow whatever dream you have. It's my hope that some of you will love science and engineering and make that your career, but we also need excellent writers and artists who can depict the fate and needs of our oceans to those around the world as well.
People looked at the sea for thousands of years before venturing below it. There are many new things to discover still on this planet; many things we've probably never dreamed existed, yet are an intrinsic and vital part of this planet. What wonders capture your imagination? What dreams do you have for your future? What kinds of exploration do you want to do? I hope that some of the things you've seen on this trip will spark some new thoughts and hopes in your heart. I hope you see the world with new eyes as you start a new journey of discovery.
I'd like to thank all of you making this program unique and memorable for me. It's certainly been the largest and most exciting class I've ever taught! It's been an honor and a privilege to have been your correspondent at sea. Your thoughtful questions and inquisitive comments have kept me busy and really made me think. Thank you so much for being part of the team.
I wish you all fair winds and following seas. This is the R/V Atlantis and Extreme 2002 signing off: Over and Out.
Hepsi Zsoldos, Shipboard Educational Coordinator, Extreme 2002
Copyright University of Delaware, Oct. 2002.